John Carrio must retrieve the data that was stolen during his last job.
|“John, what’re you thinking?”
Alia giggled under her breath. “It’s like you checked out. Are you alright?”
I took in the vision of my girlfriend as she sipped her water. I smiled at her, “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“I wish you’d let me in. I know something’s bugging you.”
“Sorry. You know I’m not allowed to talk about most of what I do.” I wished I could open up to her, but how do I explain that I just finished a job assassinating a mid-level manager for suspicion of patriotism? The job had hit close to home, because my own father had been a Patriot. It was especially unnerving, since I kept all of my father’s contraband when he had died. I’m not sure why I kept it.
Breaking my train of thought, I snapped back to Alia, “After we’re done here, you still want to watch that video I downloaded?”
“Sure,” I watched Alia smile widely. “I’ll help you clean up,” Alia eagerly answered clattered her fork and knife onto her plate and stood up.
I mirrored her actions.
The two of us skimmed around the island that separated the dining and kitchen areas. I opened the dishwasher, as Alia handed me a plate.
Chimes softly sounded from the island behind us. Excusing myself, I turned to the island and swiped my hand across the deep black granite surface. A holographic vision of my supervisor, Mr. Coleman, floated into the air in front of me.
“John,” bellowed Coleman’s voice. “I wanted to let you know you did a good job…”
“I’m not alone.” I quickly interjected, stepping aside for him to see Alia.
“Ah…I see…” he cleared his voice. “We’ve decided to give you a chance at some redemption after your debacle with Ms. Shadix’s stalker. Can you come into the office?”
Looking at my watch, I replied, “I can be there in half an hour.”
“Good. We’ll see you soon.” The holographic visage faded away.
I turned to see Alia staring at me with her arms crossed.
“I thought they said you did everything possible to stop Remi’s stalker?” she asked.
“They did. I killed the assassin, but unofficially I let some of the data on her cybernetic brain implants get uploaded to the net. They've been trying to figure out where it went,” I stared off blankly. “Something new must have been found.”
“Well, you can walk me to the train, before you go in.”
I smiled at her. “That was my plan.”
At the office, I seated myself across from my supervisor and the brokerage CEO, Mr. Jackson. It occurred to me, for as long as I’ve been here, I didn’t know the man’s first name.
Coleman started the briefing, “John, it seems the trace you ran down on the stolen cyberware data was correct. The information was sent to Koch Enterprises. It’s taken us this long to figure out exactly where it has been stored. You’re going to retrieve it and destroy any research that has been done.”
The room fell silent. They were waiting for me to say something. I took my time to think the situation through before I spoke. “Ideally it would be best if I could take a couple of years to insert myself into the company, but if they have started researching the cyberware data, then we don’t have that much time. I guess this means I’ll have to do a smash and grab.”
Coleman leaned forward, “Normally you’d be correct, but an opportunity has presented itself. We intercepted a communique from Koch Enterprises to The Ford Industry. Koch was looking for an investor in the research. This message allowed us to narrow down the search to where the data was being kept.
“On behalf of The Ford Industry we agreed to help, provided we could inspect the research that was done thus far. This is where you come in. We have arranged for you to go to Koch Enterprises as a Freelancer. You’re to review their work. When an opportunity provides itself, you’ll download the work and destroy their research.”
“It’ll be difficult to create an opportunity to steal the information.” I retorted.
“Do you remember Dawn Delgado? You worked with her on an unofficial mission.”
“Yeah. I remember her,” they were talking about the assassination of Walton. Dawn was the tech on that mission. “She’s a good hacker. Her skills were key in that mission.”
“Well, we’ve inserted her into Koch Enterprises as a tech. Lucky for us she was able to get herself assigned to the cyberware research.”
Mr. Jackson leaned on the table folding his hands together. “Are you up to the task of redeeming yourself?”
What do you say to that, I thought. Controlling the frustration swelling inside, I cleared my throat and dead pan stared at my CEO. “Mr. Jackson, I understand the importance of this mission.”
“Oh, do you?” retorted Mr. Jackson.
“Yes. If I fail, Koch will know we’re trying to get the information back. Security will be beefed up making it impossible to get near the data ever again. This would render our research worthless, while they’ll make the breakthroughs. Dawn Delgado’s life is also on the line, in this. If her cover is blown, she’s dead. Finally, Koch Enterprises will take this as an aggressive act which could start a hostile takeover by Koch Enterprises,” I paused to take a small breath. “To answer your question, yes I understand what’s at stake and I’m up to the task.”
Within 24 hours my bags were packed and I was on a flight to Michigan, the capitol of The Ford Industry. I had told Alia I was going away on a business trip and asked her to look after my place.
I mindlessly rubbed the slight scar from a laser incision on my right palm, where my identification chip had been replaced. A palm chip is hard written with your basic static information and codes to access your dynamic information such as your bank account and health records. The information on a palm chip can’t be overwritten. The new chip I was given was a model that could have the hard written data changed as needed. This made changing my identities for this mission a breeze. The down side was everything that I was, was locked up in a vault at the head office.
The last thing Mr. Jackson said to me was an old Spartan saying, “Come back on your shield or with it.” To me, this meant I had to succeed or die trying. These were the only two options I had to getting my identification back.
My itinerary had me stay overnight at a rather nice hotel in Michigan. This was so it looked like I picked up my freelance orders from The Ford Industry. I then flew to LaGuardia, in New York City, which is the headquarters for Koch Enterprises.
I rested up and had dinner in the hotel restaurant. Before I went to bed, I contemplated calling Alia, but decided against it. There was too much risk of being monitored.
The next day was an uneventful arrival at LaGuardia Airport. Exiting the gate, I found a very tall muscular man holding a sign with my name on it. I stopped in front of the ape like man. “I’m John Carrio.”
The brute produced a scanner from inside his coat pocket. “Hold out your hand, please.”
I did as requested and he held the scanner over my palm chip. Now was the test to see if this new palm chip worked. He stared down over his barrel chest at the read out and then stared down at me with a smile. “Welcome to New York City, Mr. Carrio. I will be your driver, while you’re here in the city.”
“Great.” Yeah, great I thought. How was I going to take this monster down when I needed to get away? It wouldn’t surprise me if he had cybernetic limbs.
At the hotel, my driver opened the car door for me. I stepped out looking up at the skyscraper. We had tall buildings in Seattle, but not so many that nearly blocked out the sky. I tried not to look astonished, but I think I failed.
“Mr. Carrio, this is your hotel. There is a restaurant and a lounge. You have access to all amenities. You’re requested to stay at the hotel until I bring you to the laboratories.”
I turned with a smile and held out my hand. The large man encased my hand with his. “Thank you,” I said. “By the way, I never got your name.”
“I’m known as Brutus,” he replied. “I’ll pick you up in the morning at nine o’clock.”
Passing through the lobby to the front desk, I spotted Dawn reading her tablet at one of the lounge’s tables. She looked up and smiled at me. The Brokerage must have sent her a message about me coming.
Settling into my room, I decided to clean up before I headed back down to the lounge. Once dressed, I looked through my gear. I decided a stunner was all I needed for now. There shouldn’t be too much danger to worry about at the hotel.
In the lounge, a man was overshadowing Dawn at her table. I took a seat at the bar and ordered a soda. After a few sips, the man dejectedly came over and leaned against the bar next to me and ordered a drink.
“That’s one tough cookie to crack.” he grunted, gesturing to Dawn.
“Oh, I don’t know about that. You just need to know how to make your approach.”
“And how would you do that?”
“Well, she’s reading a tech paper. Which means she’s very smart and probably here on business.” The guy stared at me waiting for more. “Here, it’s like this.” I pulled my tablet out from my jacket, picked up my soda, and walked over to Dawn.
“Hi.” I presented myself to Dawn.
She looked up at me with a disgruntled look.
I showed her my tablet. “Are you here for the tour of Koch Enterprises?”
“Yes, I am,” she smiled at me and offered me a chair.
I took a seat across from her, looking over my shoulder to smile at the dejected guy at the bar, with a sly smile.
“What kept you?” Dawn asked while staring at her tablet. “Do you have any idea how many jerks I’ve had to tell off?”
“You’re the one taking the risk. It’s not good for us to be seen together.”
“I had no choice.”
“What did the Brokerage say?”
“They sent me your picture with two words; ‘contact’ and ‘assist’.”
“I’m here to retrieve the cyberware data,” I explained. “I’m also supposed to destroy any research.”
Dawn sighed heavily, “They don’t ask for much.”
“Can you get me a storage device to hold the research? I doubt I’ll be able to sneak one into the research area.”
“Yes, but you aren’t getting anywhere near it tomorrow. There’ll be too many people.”
I sat quietly and thought about the situation. Pretty sure I was back to a smash and grab scenario. “I’ll use tomorrow for scouting. We’ll make a plan from there.”
“Here’s my number.” she pushed a drink napkin across the table to me.
I stood and thanked Dawn for her time. I made my way back over to the bar and set my glass down. The dejected guy was still there watching everything that went on. I wondered if he was working for Koch. It didn’t matter. There was nothing I could do about him. It would be too suspicious if bodies started disappearing. I smiled at the guy. “You just have to know how to talk about their interests.”
“Yeah, how’d that work out for you?”
I flashed the napkin with her number and sauntered off to the elevator.
Promptly at nine a.m. Brutus called my room from the lobby. I made my way down to the waiting area. In the elevator, I checked my weapons. It seemed ridiculous to be carrying most of my arsenal, but I was playing the role of a Freelancer. They are notorious for being loaded for war.
Brutus escorted me to the waiting white SUV. Watching out the window as we drove through the city, I was amazed by how the slummers mingled with citizens. In the AppleGates Union the slummers kept to their part of the city and our citizens didn’t associate with them.
Once we moved past the suburbs we came to a large facility. It was rounded with a fence topped with razor wire. Guards patrolled the perimeter in all-terrain buggies. Under cover of night, I could time my way through the patrols. Once inside the gate, we pulled up to the front of the building. I noticed the only windows on the building were in the front. There would have to be fire escape doors. Dawn would have to help me get inside one. The only wild card in this scenario would be cameras. That would take some planning.
Brutus waited by the SUV as I walked through the entrance way into the lobby. Matching white seating with glass tables were arranged throughout the lobby, but no one filled them. There were only two Security Officers waiting at a scanner, which led back into the facility.
Approaching the scanner, one of the guards placed his hands on his stunner and politely ordered me to stop, “Please put your arms out to your side and don’t move.”
I complied and the second guard approached me. He reached into my jacket and pulled both of my sidearms from their holsters. He then felt around my belt removing my explosive charges, knives, internet goggles, and cell. Then feeling down the length of my legs he stopped at my ankles. Whipping up my left pant leg, the Officer removed a small gun. He pulled up my other pant leg where he found my stunner grenade.
The Security Officer stood up, “Do you have any other weapons on you?”
“And if I tell you no?”
The Officer jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. “The scanner will find it and I’ll be very upset.”
I nodded and pulled up my suit jacket sleeves producing an expandable baton on one arm and two throwing knives on the other forearm.
The Security Officer with his hand on his stunner laughed and shook his head, “Typical Freelancer; can’t go anywhere without all your toys.”
The second guard waved his arm in the direction of the scanner.
I took a step forward, then paused and slipped a rolled up piano wire out from under my lapel. I handed it to the Officer holding all of my gear, “I will get my stuff back, right?”
Stepping into the scanner my right palm immediately started to burn red hot. Looking down at my hand, I saw smoke and a couple sparks shoot out from the incision on my palm. Grabbing my wrist, I screamed in agony. Bells sounded as plexi-glass doors dropped down, sealing me into the scanner.
I looked back to see the two Security Officers with their stunners trained on me.
From the other side of the scanners appeared two men in suits surrounded by several more Security Guards.
Being chained to a metal chair wasn’t as bad as it looked, provided I kept my body relaxed. To my left, a Security Officer stood by the only door, while one more stood next to me. The two suits that had appeared at the security scanner leaned against a table. They whispered to themselves while glancing occasionally at me.
I could not help but to feel despair. This was obviously going to be an interrogation. The mission was ruined. Dawn would be lucky to escape before searches revealed her. The Ford Industry was obviously not going to claim me. They didn’t even know I existed. The AppleGates Union would deny any knowledge of me. If I was able to escape, I’d still have a long walk home, because my fake palm chip was fried.
The two suits finally came to an agreement on whatever they were discussing. They turned and approached me. The one who started to talk to me was an older bald man. He carried himself with an air of superiority. His navy blue suit was at least 50,000 credits. What stood out the most to me were his round eye glasses that framed his very dark eyes. Eye glasses were obsolete. I guess he wore them as some fashion statement.
Standing over me the suit introduced himself, “Hello, Mr. Carrio. I am Alistair Bruchac. I am one of the board members of Koch Enterprises. I was supposed to meet with you to discuss the cybernetic implants we have been working on.”
“How you doing, Alistair?” I asked as nonchalantly as possible.
Mr. Bruchac gave me a thin lipped smile, “Your bravado is only going to delay the inevitable.”
“What is the inevitable?”
“You’re going to explain to me who you are and who you work for.”
“Don’t you want to know why I’m here?”
“I think that’s obvious,” Alistair walked around behind me pausing and then moved back into my field of vision. “Let’s start with explaining to me why your palm chip fried. You see, our scanner is designed to fry any electronics, except for identification chips, because those are hard written. There’s really nothing to fry.”
The thing with interrogations, was you’re going to break eventually. The trick was to give them something and the best way to do that was keep as close to the truth, as possible without giving away the real truth. “I bought the chip on the black market. It was designed to easily switch identities.”
“And, why would you need such a thing?” Alistair asked.
“I’m a Freelancer. I’m wanted by a few corporations. Being able to change my identity helps with not being captured.”
Bruchac turned around to his fellow suit, “See, he can be reasonable,” he looked back at me. “Now who are you working for?”
“The Ford Industry. I was hired to inspect the cybernetic data you acquired. Ford doesn’t want to send one of their representatives, until I assure them your work is legitimate.”
Alistair clasped his hands together and pointed at me. “I would like to believe you, but that was too easy.”
I need to make note not to give away the information too quickly. “Why would I be lying? Check with Ford.” I hoped my bluff would work.
“Oh, we plan to.” pointing back to the other suit, “My associate here is going to talk to you while we contact The Ford Industry.”
So much for my bluff.
Mr. Bruchac left the room, while his friend took off his suit jacket and neatly laid it on the table. He slipped on a pair of rubber gloves and picked up a hose off of the floor. Turning the nozzle on me and drenched from me head to toe. The associate then rolled the hose back up. Reaching under the table he flipped on a generator and unwound two cables. He tapped them together causing sparks jumped off the metal ends.
I tensed up. “Ford is going to be really unhappy to hear you electrocuted me.”
“Don’t worry Mr. Carrio. I have the generator on a low setting. But, we could go much higher if we need to.” The associate lunged forward jabbing the metal ends into my ribs. Lightning fast the muscles throughout my body constricted and contorted. I clenched my jaw shut, but it didn’t stop the scream escaping from between my teeth.
I don’t know how long the associate worked on me. I do know he turned the generator up three times. I’m pretty sure I cracked a few teeth from clenching my jaw, as the electricity wracked my body. I was weighted down by exhaustion. I could barely lift my head to see the associate talking to Mr. Bruchac’s holographic head.
“We’ve sent a communique to The Ford Industry. It will be awhile before we hear back. How is it going with our guest?” Asked Alistair’s floating bust.
Just as the associate was about to answer him, the room fell into pitch black. The guards’ uniforms gave off an eerily green glow and their headlamps flicked on. That was all they could do before the shots rang out and the guards crumbled to the floor.
A shot rang out from where the associate was standing. I heard it ping off something metal. Another shot sounded from over by one of the guards’ bodies. The sound of the associate’s body flopping to the ground filled me with relief.
A double crack sounded next to my head. I jerked up to see the Cyalume glow sticks fall to the ground lighting up the immediate area around me. The dark figure in front of me pulled infrared goggles up onto their forehead. Dawn Delgado stepped into the dim light.
She dropped down to her knees in front of me and grabbed a large med patch out of her bag. “Time to wake up,” Dawn ripped open my shirt and slapped the patch onto my chest. Waves of adrenaline swept through my body. I was still exhausted, but my body was alive and I could move.
Delgado quickly freed me from my chains. “We’ve got maybe another ten minutes before they figure out the programming bug that shut down this place. We’ve got to get out of here.”
“No. Not yet. I’ve got to get the research data.”
“You can’t. There’s no power in this building to get into a computer.”
“Yes there is,” I rolled the generator out from under the table and ripped the cables out of the socket. “Let’s go.”
Dawn tossed me a pair of infrared goggles and headed for the door. Peering out the door, Dawn waved at me to follow her. In the corridor, she whispered to me, “There’s a small lab at the end of the hall. We should be able to retrieve the data there.”
In the lab, Dawn hooked the generator up to the computer station while I guarded the door. It didn’t take her long to breathe life into the system and bring up the cybernetic research data. She quickly downloaded the information to a cube.
“Do you have anything that can wipe their research?” I asked.
Dawn sat back for a moment and thought, “I don’t have any of my viruses or hacks with me. I can’t write anything. We don’t have time.”
I moved over behind Delgado. “Can you open the electrical lines between here and the database?”
“Yes, but why?”
“The generator on full power won’t fry the electrical system, but it will fry any computer system that is on the system you open.”
Dawn lit up and went to work opening the necessary electrical lines. Once she was done, I cranked up the power output of the generator. Dawn and I stood staring at the station waiting for something to happen. Slowly, smoke began to waft up from the controls and the system went dark.
Clomping boots hurried past the door outside. I tensed at the possibility the door would fling open.
Dawn slapped a gun with a silencer into my hand. She crouched behind me slinging her bag of goodies over her shoulder.
“Do you have a weapon?” I asked.
“Why not? You had to qualify on small arms combat.”
“I did, just barely. I hate those things,” She nudged me towards the door. “You’re a good shot. You can do this.”
I opened the door to a shocked Security Officer who was about to open the door himself. Jabbing the silencer into his ribs I pulled the trigger. Silently his body crumpled onto me. Shifting my weight, I dropped the body just inside the door. I plucked the stunner off the Officer and handed it to Dawn. I kept the dead man’s gun for myself.
In the hallway, Dawn and I slid along the wall toward the main entrance. Red back up lights flickered on and went black. Twice more the emergency lights did this. I turned back to Delgado.
“They’re trying to get the main generators to kick in, but my system virus is keeping them shut down. We don’t have much longer before they start checking the programming,” she explained.
Dawn directed me through the short maze of corridors to a corner. She pulled me to a stop. She pointed frantically at the hallway intersection. I peered around the edge to see the scanner I had been captured in. Standing on either side of the scanner were the glowing uniforms of Security Officers.
I rolled my body around the wall and marched towards the Guards. Raising my gun arm straight out in front of me, I squeezed the trigger. There was a thump as the bullet hit the Officer in the back. His glowing body flopped forward onto his face. The second Security Officer spun around raising his assault rifle. I fired on the second guard. Without noise his head snapped backwards from the impact of the bullet.
I peered out the glass wall that was the front entrance. Parked out front in the dark of night was the white SUV that had brought me to the facility. Dawn and I dashed outside to the vehicle. The driver’s door popped open and Brutus emerged from around the door.
I raised my gun at the driver. Before I could squeeze the trigger, Brutus called out, “Don’t shoot! I’m just a driver. They don’t pay me enough to protect their rides.”
I grabbed the stunner from Dawn. Pointing it at Brutus, a blue-white electric bolt arched over the hood of the vehicle and slammed the driver to the ground.
“Why did you do that? He was giving us the car.” cried Delgado.
“I just saved his life. His bosses will think we over powered him and he won’t be in trouble.”
Speeding away in the SUV, shots showered the rear of the vehicle. Looking back I could see a group of green glowing uniforms shooting at us. The rounds pinged off the vehicle. The SUV must have been bullet proof.
Dawn rented a hotel room for a couple of nights, but we were only planning on being there for a few hours. It was our hope the Koch goons would look here, while we were boarding a plane.
That was the trick. With my identification chip, fried how was I going to get out of the Koch Enterprises territory? Delgado worked on my reprogrammable palm chip. She discovered a couple of the minor circuits were only fried and the programming had been erased. She was confident she could reprogram the chip, but was unsure how glitchy it would be.
I hung out in the lobby, watching for anyone who could be hunting for us. It had been a couple of hours and I was relaxing a bit thinking we were going to get a way clean. That’s when Brutus walked in with two other men in dark suits.
I tapped my ear piece. “Dawn, they’re here. We’ve got to go.”
“I’m just finishing up. Stall for a couple of minutes,” replied Delgado.
Stall? If they see me this will turn into a shooting match. They are looking at each person in the lobby. If I get up and leave they’ll rush over and check me out. I’m pickled. Oh, what the hell. Casually, I stood up and walked over to the elevators. I figured, at the very least I could get them away from the civilians before the shooting started.
The two men in dark suits ran over to me, while Brutus lumbered along behind them. The two jumped in front of the elevator blocking me from getting in. “Show us your hand chip,” one of them ordered.
“Why? What’s going on?” I asked trying to buy the time Dawn needed.
One of the men produced an identification reader, while the other pulled his gun on me. “Sir. Show us your palm or you’re under arrest.”
It’s never good when they call you sir.
The elevator dinged and the door slid open. In that split second, I slapped the gun sideways with both hands. My left hand grabbed the wrist, while my right hand flew up the length of his arm and slammed into his windpipe. He crumpled to the floor of the elevator.
I didn’t see the second dark suit take a swipe, at the side of my head with the palm reader. I crumpled to my hands and knees. The man stood over me. Grabbing the stunner from the side of my suit jacket, I flopped the weapon down on his foot and pulled the trigger. I heard a small grunt and I pulled the stunner away. The second suit fell over backwards.
I stood with my hands on my knees and took a look around, taking deep breaths. I could feel the blood trickling down my left temple. People in the lobby were standing to get a better view of the excitement.
I heard someone clear their throat from the elevator. I turned to see Dawn leaning out of the door looking to see if the fight was over. Delgado cowered back when she looked over my shoulder.
I spun around, to find myself, standing nose to chest with Brutus. I took a couple of steps back. The intimidating gargantuan held his hands up to surrender.
“You’re not much of a fighter are you?” I asked Brutus.
He simply shook his head.
Like a place kicker for the Seattle Seahawks, I pulled my foot back swung, as hard as I could into the giant man’s groin. Brutus had a pained look on his face, but he did not move. I came straight up into his chin with the palm of my hand. His head flew backwards as he stumbled into the wall and leaned there.
Grabbing Dawn’s hand, I dragged her out of the elevator and ran outside. We waved down the first taxi that drove past. Quickly climbing in, I made sure the goons had not followed. I barked at the driver to take us to the airport.
Dawn took my hand in hers. Before I could comment she seared open the base of my hand. I tried not to yell. Using a laser knife on the skin really hurts, without the usual local anesthetic. Delgado pushed the reprogrammable chip under the skin. Once secure she used some skin spray to close the wound. Looking closely at my palm Dawn said, “Let’s hope that chip works.”
Getting through the terminal security was easy. I had dumped the gun and stunner on the road when we got in the taxi. The x-ray screen only showed Dawn’s electronics in her pack. The Security Officer did take her aside to check her bag. Thankfully, the Officer was lazy and didn’t run a facial scan or her identification chip. It would have been over then.
The final test came when we got to the gateway. Dawn went first and had her chip scanned for boarding.
The stewardess checked her screen. “Thank you Ms. Delgado. Your seat is in first class, number 12.”
Dawn looked back to see the shocked look on my face. “What? I figure we should go out in style.”
So much for keeping a low profile.
I swiped my chip next. The stewardess’s screen flashed red. “I’m sorry sir, but your ID didn’t scan.”
I could feel the sweat dripping down my back. I smiled and clenched my teeth, which reminded me of the couple of cracked molars from my interrogation. I rubbed my palm and gave a little laugh. I swiped my hand across her scanner again.
After what seemed like several seconds, the screen flashed green. The stewardess smiled at me, “Sorry for the trouble, Mr. Langley. You are seated next to Ms. Delgado in seat 13.”
I nodded at her as I passed into the gate.
Dawn and I sat in our seats. It was impossible to relax, even after the hatch sealed. A steward offered us drinks while we waited for launch. We both declined the drinks and sat nervously.
Soon, the jet rolled into position on the tarmac. We both sank into our seats as the engines roared up to full throttle. We were airborne, but we were still in Koch Enterprises’ territory. The plane could still be recalled.
Dawn and I both stared out the window. We passed above the clouds. The light blue atmosphere slowly turned inky black. My tie silently floated up in front of me. We had reached low Earth orbit and were out of the reach of Koch. Space was international territory.
I took a deep breath and slowly let it out. I could feel my body float out of the seat and strain against the harness. I looked over at Dawn. She had been thinking the same as me, her relief showed on her face.
I raised my hand to call the steward. “We’ll take those drinks now.”
Appox: 5500 words